The goals of civilization
The One Road One Belt Initiative is China’s most ambitious and comprehensive reengineering in the intercourse of human civilization earlier catalyzed in what we see as the “globalization of free trade.” Some say that China is seeking to implant the golden rule of win-win approach to give globalization the much-needed boost at such a crucial period. Some are having their doubts about its future, seeing the leading proponents wanting to take the old road of protectionism.
One can only deduce their motive to turn back history. The architects of free trade are primarily concerned with building a system that will benefit their needs. Thus, when unregulated free trade began to falter, some now would seek to modify the rules, not really in allowing all to benefit but to promote the same advantage they originally worked out. Globalization or free trade remains locked to the same principle of conquest that under the system of capitalism would suffer the same conundrum of prosperity to the few and recession to all.
China’s President Xi Jinping pointed out that although on the whole the One Belt One Road Initiative remains substantially within the framework of free trade, he knew that the system is now proving to be unsustainable. President Xi is doing the arduous task of reformatting globalization to one of shared responsibility for economic development that is consistent with China’s win-win policy that would create a positive synergy among the participating states. It is envisioned as one that is comprehensive and interconnected much that it seeks to erase the old idea that member-states should always strive to get the greatest advantage in exchange for their participation. Nobody anticipated that globalization would exact an even greater bargain of reducing or eliminating tariff irrespective of their degree of economic development.
Terms such as win-win and connectivity are China’s way of creating an innovative economic approach that would produce constructive response for the participating states. It is the same thought envisioned by President Xi of a camel caravan crossing the Eurasian heartland called Silk Road with their trail like a thin rope to keep them together to overcome the odds of sandstorms to reach their destination. He said: “...the pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative is not meant to reinvent the wheel. Rather, it aims to complement the development strategies of countries involved by leveraging their comparative strengths. We have enhanced coordination with the policy initiatives of relevant countries, such as the Eurasian Economic Union of Russia, the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity, the Bright Road Initiative of Kazakhstan, the Middle Corridor Initiative of Turkey, the Development Road initiative of Mongolia, the two Corridors, One Economic Corridors, One Economic Circle initiative of Viet Nam, the Northern Powerhouse initiative of the UK and the Amber Road initiative of Poland. We are also promoting complementarily between China’s development plan and those of Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Hungary and other countries. China has signed cooperation agreements with over 40 countries and international organizations and carried out framework cooperation on production capacity with more than 30 countries. During the forum, a number of cooperation agreements on policy connectivity and action plans will be signed. We will also launch Belt and Road cooperation initiative on trade connectivity with some 60 countries and international organizations. Such policy connectivity will produce a multiplying effect on cooperation among the parties involved.”
The Belt and Road Initiative has been compared to the US initiated economic rebuilding of Western Europe known as the “Marshall Plan.” The economic rebuilding was intended to avert the fear that the then Soviet Union was about to overrun the whole of Europe. From a buffer zone, Western Europe soon evolved to form an economic bloc known as the European Community. Later it was replaced by the European Union for which free trade was universalized by the changing of the Uruguay Round or the General Agreements on Tariff and Trade or GATT to World Trade Organization in 1997.
The Marshall Plan excluded some countries even if they fought shoulder-to-shoulder with the Allied Forces. They were simply left to fend for themselves. The Marshall Plan cost the US $13 billion which by today’s value would run to about $130 billion just to let those countries walk on their feet and save what some would say as the “great” Western Civilization. The same philosophical spirit guide today’s WTO. Member countries were forced to eliminate or reduce their tariff for which many were not prepared. Yes, globalization greatly enhance free trade, but it created a deep wedge between the rich and poor countries repeating the same cycle of recession and depression that nurtures insecurity and continued political instability.
The One Belt One Road Initiative is not just about trade and finance but includes science, the arts and all aspects of learning, designed to raise the ethical standard human civilization to a higher level. It is estimated that the Belt and Road Initiative will cost China close to $1 trillion. This includes the building of interconnected infrastructures, roads and railways, telecommunications, energy pipelines, and ports covering 60 countries and involving 67 percent of the world’s population.
China is fully aware, which reason why those who are looking forward calls the Belt and Road Initiative a defining moment in China’s history. It seeks not the glory of the past but the virtues it can bequeath to humanity. President Xi reiterated the five principles in China’s pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative. 1) Peace and cooperation. He said, the Silk Road spirit has become a great heritage of human civilization. 2) Openness and inclusiveness. Xi pointed out that civilization thrives with openness and nations prosper through exchange; 3) that the Belt and Road Initiative is for countries to open to achieve economic growth and balanced development. He said that great ideas from the East and the West are an amalgam of great civilizations. 4) That the Belt and Road Initiative is for innovation. The simplest form of innovation is progress, and, 5) The Belt and Road Initiative is for different civilizations, and the greatest value of interaction is peace.
Faithful to the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence that today serves as the model in the conduct of foreign relations, President Xi reaffirms his commitment, to quote, “China will enhance friendship and cooperation will all countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. We are ready to share practices of development with other countries, but we have no intention to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, export our social system and model of development, or impose our own will on others. In pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, we will not resort to outdated geopolitical maneuvering. What we hope to achieve is a new model of win-win cooperation. We have no intention to form a small group detrimental to stability, what we hope to create is a big family of harmonious co-existence.”